Empathy is a word we hear a lot in conversations about high sensitivity and introversion. Maybe you’ve heard the term ’empath’ used to describe a particular type of sensitivity (soaking up the mood of people and environment). This is separate from the concept of empathy itself and is not what I’m talking about.
Though some people find it easier than others, empathy is not a natural character trait, it is a discipline that is honed and learned over time. As such we can almost all sharpen out empathic saw if we choose to do so.
Over the past few months I’ve been dipping in and out of Roman Krznaric’s fantastic book, Empathy.
The book has been really insightful, describing very practical ways in which empathy has changed the world throughout history. He suggests that we can step away from the hyper-individualism with which we experience the world today, and instead embrace empathy as the path of real revolution.
It’s all about placing ourselves into the shoes of other people and seeing the world from their perspective. Understanding the thoughts, ideas, feelings, experiences that make up another person’s view of the world.
Roman makes the point that we ALL experience empathy, possibly without realising. We know exactly what it is…
When you’ve been arguing with someone (a family member, partner, work-colleague etc) and you think to yourself: “ahh I wish they could just understand my point of view. I wish they understood what I was feeling”.
We have all felt that. And when we have, what is it that we are after from that person?
We want the other person to experience the situation through our eyes, to see the world from where we’re standing.
Empathy is something that we must constantly be working on. It’s a vital tool in our toolbox.
“Empathy is a constant awareness of the fact that your concerns are not everyone’s concerns and that your needs are not everyone’s needs, and that some compromise has to be achieved moment by moment. I don’t think empathy is charity, I don’t think empathy is self-sacrifice, I don’t think empathy is prescriptive. I think empathy is an ever-evolving way of living as fully as possible, because it’s pushing your envelope and pushing you into new experiences that you might not expect or appreciate until you’re given the opportunity.” – Roman Krznaric
He divides the book into the following sections:
Habit 1: Switch on your empathic brain
Habit 2: Make the imaginative leap
Habit 3: Seek experiential adventures
Habit 4: Practise the craft of conversation
Habit 5: Travel in your armchair
Habit 6: Inspire a revolution
In this episode of the podcast I focus in on a few of these habits and explore some practical ways that we can sharpen our empathic saw and become people who are able to truly perceive life from the perspective of other people…and in so doing, gently shake the world.
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